Kagriss paused at the voice. It was that templar girl, Lucienne. Here to stop her from killing the people, she presumed. If Lucienne was here, then perhaps Camilla’s not too far behind? In that case, it would disappoint Camilla if she killed everyone here.
Instead of summoning and commanding a thicket of black spikes to rise from the water to impale everyone, Kagriss modified the spell to summon grasping hands instead. Cries of fear rang out from all around her as suddenly small but innumerous tentacles rose from around the bandits, coiling around them and clinging to them at the end with tiny hooked fingers.
From there, they began to climb up their legs.
“What the hell is this?”
“Get this off me?”
“Who the hell are you?” the leader of the bandits screamed. However, before they could scream anymore, the black tentacles reached their face and covered their mouth, spilling inside.
The captured bandits’ eyes bulged as they tried to gag. They tried to scream again, but the only sounds they could produce were whimpers. The dark hands in their mouth stopped any other sound.
Finally, losing their balance from having through legs grabbed, they fell to the ground, the darkness covering their bodies until all that remained visible of them was their nose.
Still maintaining careful control over the spell so that no one suffocated to death, Kagriss stood up, stepped around the bodies with disgust as she faced Lucienne. The templar stood in the water with her sword out, pointing it at her.
Kagriss looked behind her, but she could neither see nor sense Camilla.
They both asked a question at the same time, interrupting each other, both of them falling silent awkwardly as they waited for the other to continue. Finally, Kagriss remembered that she was supposed to be nice to Lucienne, so she took a step back. Besides, she already knew the answer to her question.
Camilla still hasn’t come. She was probably still talking to Leland.
“You can go first if you want…”
Lucienne looked surprised at her offer. “Okay…um, are these people going to be okay?” She looked around at the large bulges in the black ground, each of them containing a person helplessly buried and restricted.
Except for the way each person’s nostrils flared as they desperately tried to get air, none of the people moved. It was as if they were dead.
Kagriss nodded. “They’re alive. I didn’t use a lethal spell,” she said.
Lucienne had a look of doubt on her face. “It looks like it can easily be turned lethal if the nose becomes covered.”
“I have confidence in my control over the spell,” Kagriss insisted, offended that Lucienne would doubt her. Besides, if she wanted to kill these people, a simple impalement from below would have been enough. Why go to the trouble of capturing and suffocating them?
This spell was obviously designed to be used to capture weak things.
It was near useless against anything that could use mana, but against these normal humans, it was perfect to capture without hurting them. They couldn’t even scream.
Meanwhile, Kagriss could slowly pump undead mana into them to weaken them if her targets were humans, or in the case of capturing undead, sap their mana for use in maintaining the spell.
“Oh…” Lucienne said, sounding a bit sheepish. She sheathed her sword. “Actually, I was worried that you’d just kill them, you know. Sorry for suspecting you.”
“You’re wrong. I was going to.”
“What made you change your mind?” Lucienne asked. “Me?”
Kagriss pursed her lips and shook her head, refusing to answer.
Seeing how she had made up her mind, Lucienne didn’t push her to answer. Instead, she walked over the captured bandits to Kagriss’s side, shaking her head and sighing as she looked at the black lumps on the ground. Kagriss didn’t know if it was out of pity or disappointment.
“So what now?” Kagriss asked. “Do I let them go?”
“Eh? No, definitely not. The fact you’re an undead cannot be known by the people or there’ll be panic and a whole lot of trouble for the Church. If you just release them, they’ll just tell everyone!”
“So we should just kill them,” Kagriss said. If they couldn’t be kept alive, then death was the only other option. As she prepared to execute the captured target, Lucienne jumped in front of her. “What?”
“You can’t kill them!”
“Because they’re humans!”
Kagriss blinked. That was such a weak reason to not kill these people. In the fortress, if there was ever conflict between factions, it was kill or be killed. Annihilation of body and mind was on the line. Since these people wanted to harm her, it was natural that they paid the price. Why should they not pay just because they’re humans?
She shook her head, rejecting Lucienne’s reasoning. “I don’t care whether they’re undead or human if their survival hurts me and Camilla.”
She raised her hand, only to find her arm being grabbed and held down by Lucienne. Holy power aura radiated from Lucienne’s grip, disrupting her spell construction.
“You can’t kill them! I have a duty to prevent their deaths!”
Kagriss growled and tried to shake off Lucienne’s arm, but she couldn’t do it too hard or she might break the templar’s wrist if the templar wasn’t reinforcing herself.
Her other hand twitched. Could she cast anything spell focusing on that hand? But it was already being used to sustain the capturing spell…
She and Lucienne fell into a stalemate. As she considered her options, she suddenly sensed a third, familiar party catching up to them from the direction of Leland’s hideout. Camilla had finally come.
Slowly, Kagriss’s killing intent faded as she once more remembered Camilla’s warning against killing anyone. What would Camilla think if she killed these people here? She’d only disappoint Camilla more after having disobeyed her last time.
Kagriss chewed her lips as she looked toward Camilla, yet was afraid to meet Camilla’s eyes. “Camilla…”
“I’m sorry, Kagriss.”
“…?” Why was Camilla apologizing to her? Unable to resist, she finally locked gazes with Camilla, finding her looking guilty.
Before Camilla could explain further, however, Lucienne cut in between them, looking as if her savior was here. “Camilla, hurry up and help me stop her! She’s trying to kill all the people here!”
Kagriss growled at the tone that Lucienne took with Camilla. However, she remained silent, waiting for Camilla’s reply. Already, the magic in her hand was fading as she gave up on trying to construct the spell through Lucienne’s interference.
Camilla looked around her, as if seeing the scene for the first time. After a while of silence, she looked up. “Kill them.”
Thunderstruck by an unexpected answer, Lucienne’s mouth fell open. “Huh? Wait, why? You’re supposed to be the reasonable one!”
Even Kagriss felt a little blindsided by Camilla’s decision. Was this the same Camilla that told her to not kill anyone, or was this an imposter?
Camilla shook her head. “I am being reasonable. Do it.”
“Don’t! You can’t!” Following her cry, the holy aura from Lucienne’s hand spiked, burning Kagriss’s hand.
Kagriss winced, trying to pull away, but Lucienne held fast. Behind Lucienne, Camilla’s eyes flashed with dangerous anger. Slitting her hand with a nail, blood poured silently from her hand before solidifying into a reddish blade mottled in black and white. Lucienne froze as she felt the flat of a heavy blade suddenly fall on her shoulder.
However, she did not let go of Kagriss’s hand even with an instrument of death next to her neck.
“Instead of saying that, tell us why not? You should know as well as I why them carrying news about us and spreading it is good. A templar, traveling with and defending a bunch of dark mages? Even if they don’t recognize the feel of undead mana, if you drive us off later, the Church and the Cloud Order’s reputation will be tainted. Will you defend these peoples’ lives even so?”
Lucienne looked conflicted, but she nodded. “Yes, I—”
“Before that, let Kagriss go.”
Despite the fear in Lucienne’s eyes, she didn’t let go. “No.”
Camilla sighed. “Kagriss, can you hold off on killing anyone until we finish talking?”
When Kagriss nodded, the burning grip on her arm finally faded as Lucienne let go. She sighed in relief, getting to work healing the slight burn with her mana.
At the same time, Camilla lifted her sword off Lucienne’s shoulder, stabbing the blade into the ground. Lucienne staggered back, holding the place on her neck where the sword had touched. “Where did you get that sword…?” she asked, pointing at the massive blade.
Although Kagriss recognized the shape of the sword, she didn’t recognize the color. Had the sword transformed from being destroyed and reforged in Camilla’s blood?
“It doesn’t matter right now. That does matter is what we do with these people,” Camilla said, sweeping her hand around her at the lumps on the ground. She went to stand by Kagriss’s side. She leaned up, whispering in her ear. “I’m sorry, Kagriss…”
Kagriss shook her head. Thinking about it, it wouldn’t have killed her to apologize, if Leland apologized to her as well, but she had been too impulsive and lost control of her emotions. She was too immature and probably made trouble for Camilla.
She only realized this when she had a chance to calm down. Everything was probably okay now, though, especially since she now had that familiar presence by her side again.
Now, the only one out of place was Lucienne, who had her hand resting on her sword at her waist. Her brows were furrowed. Although Kagriss couldn’t read Lucienne’s body language very well, even she could tell that Lucienne was feeling negative right now.
“Will you defend even these people’s lives, despite possibly ruining the reputation of the Church and Orders?” Camilla asked again.
Lucienne stiffened. “I will. Reputation is just…something insubstantial, something abstract. It doesn’t change the fact I’ve done good by saving these people from you.”
Camilla snorted. “Putting that second part aside, are you sure that reputation is just something abstract? You’re wrong. Nobility and many others are willing to even kill to maintain their reputation.”
“That’s because they’re vain!”
“No, they’re realistic! Reputation is power. The kind of reputation you have grants you privileges and opens doors. Imagine if the Church lost their reputation of being a stalwart defense against the undead,” Camilla said.
After a pause to let Lucienne think the question over, she began to list out possible effects. “Donations will decrease overnight. Special deals for trade will stop, causing prices that the Church will have to pay for everything to increase. The city will stop cooperating with the Church’s activities. Do you want to see that happen?”
“N—no,” Lucienne said, her face pale.
“And, do you really think you’ve done good by sparing these people? What will they do after you let them go, other than spread that ruinous information? Can you really say you’ve done good, knowing what they’ll do?”
“They can change! Be rehabilitated!”
“Some of them can. But don’t forget, they also know information that they should not know.” Camilla’s voice was cold, colder than Kagriss had ever heard. “They must die.”
It was almost as if she had a personal grudge against these people. However, whether or not Camilla had a grudge, or if it was a simple calculation of merits and demerits, it didn’t matter to Kagriss since killing these people had been the choice she favored all along.
This time, when she raised her hand to mold the spell into a lethal spell, Lucienne just closed her eyes.
Spikes jutted inside from the coffin, instantly turning every captured person into pincushions, covered with slashes and stabs. Blood poured onto the ground as Kagriss dispelled her magic and the darkness faded.
Although she caught Camilla staring at the blood, Camilla didn’t do anything that might have given her away as a vampire. Instead she turned her back and walked away with Kagriss following close behind, and Lucienne at a distance, her eyes blank.
Yes Votes: 83 70.3%
No Votes: 35 29.7%